Community Coalition Against Mining Uranium (CCAMU)
Inquiry on the Impacts of the Uranium Cycle
Recommendations from Environmental Haliburton!
First I would like to introduce the newest member of Environment Haliburton! (EH!) – the Green Man. The Green Man is a mythic symbol of rebirth, of live over death, a guardian of the forest, a silent witness and a lord of misrule. He is with us to day and will be with EH! as a witness to our love, care and protection of our home.|
Thank you for the opportunity to make this presentation. And congratulations to the organizers of this inquiry…
Environment Haliburton! is a small non-governmental organization with a focus on protecting and preserving the Haliburton Highlands – that is, haliburton with one L, as we seldom neglect to point out.
Haliburton County, particularly the Municipality of Highlands East, is currently the site of uranium exploration by a number of companies. One of them, Bancroft Uranium, is drilling as we speak – on crown land, that is, on the people’s land. This is not our first experience with uranium mining. Several mines opened and closed in classic boom and bust style in the 1950s and 60s.
When we talk about the land we are also talking about life on the land and this life includes humans. As the human community living on the land, we are responsible for charting the future of our beautiful Haliburton Highlands. Official plans and strategic plans provide us with the chance to create a vision for our future. And we, as a community, have been clear that the future we dream of is one of sustainable development that protects our waters, lands and resources, that protects our future generations, and that is appropriate and appropriately scaled. No one looks toward to a future of open pit mines and tailings ponds that will be dangerous for millennia.
We are tremendously thankful that the government that is closest to the people, the Township of Highlands East, has joined with many other local governments to petition the province to place a moratorium on uranium mineral exploration and mining.
But here’s the rub. The current drilling operations are on the people’s land not on private land, therefore, the Official Plans, statements of the will of the residents, are not in effect. The Mining Act rules. Companies have no obligation to consult with the community. For all the impact the community vision has, we may as well be a silent as the Green Man.
We understand that the uranium industry claims to offer benefits – 40 jobs, increases to the local tax base.
Environment Haliburton! considers these claims in the light of the recent history of uranium mining in Haliburton County. In the late 50’s and early 60’s, the Bicroft Mine was open for 80 months and the Dyno mine for 26 months. At its peak, the Bicroft mine employed 500 people and the Dyno mine 450. It appears that no taxes were paid, as there was a tax holiday on uranium mines. Three communities, Bicroft Heights, Dyno Estates and Cardiff were built to accommodate mine workers. When the mines closed many of the houses were bull dozed, others were sold as retirement homes at prices considerably below construction costs and the province was left on the hook for the costs of infrastructure. Few of the miners actually purchased the homes as they moved to follow mining jobs.
Unhappily for us, the mines were closed at a time when no government took responsibility for rehabilitation. Studies done more than a decade after the mines closed found that:
• Waste rock had been used for roads, driveways and building foundations
• Mine sites were not secured
• Radionuclides were taken up in the trees that grew on the mine sites suggesting that pollutants were entering the food chain
It took the work of the Paudash Lake Conservation Association to alert Canada and Ontario to the lack of remediation and oversight.
Environment Haliburton! is concerned about an open pit uranium mine within an area designated for residential use. We are concerned about the crushed waste rock that may contaminate groundwater with heavy metals and radionuclides seeping through fissures in the rock. We are concerned about tailings ponds deteriorating and leaking into nearby creeks, or entering the aquifers. We are concerned about radioactive dust taken by the winds and deposited on neighbouring properties. We are concerned about the need to protect the site for thousands of years as most of the radioactivity left in the waste rock and tailings is long-lived.
Environment Haliburton! is also concerned about the use to which the uranium will be put. Nuclear power is neither cheap, nor clean. We have only to look at our power bills and see the monthly payment for the stranded debt to feel the cost of nuclear. The plants constructed in the past have all come in over time and over budget The Darlington nuclear plant was an astonishing 270% over budget. Refurbishing existing plants also comes in over budget and over time. When the full uranium cycle is included, nuclear power does produce greenhouse gases. And surely there is no one who does not fear a nuclear holocaust. For those who are concerned about security, are we not more secure if our sources of electricity are dispersed around the province, rather than concentrated in a few nuclear power plants?
The enormous investment proposed by Ontario in new nuclear generation is not in our best interest. Such investment means that funds will not be available for solutions more appropriate for our community. Other environmentally benign sources of power could be generated locally for local distribution. One of the most effective strategies for energy conservation in Haliburton County would be a major investment in home renovations. But enormous public investment in nuclear power will starve cheaper, more sustainable and more appropriate solutions to both the impending energy crisis and the climate crisis.
Environment Haliburton! is concerned about the disposal of nuclear waste. To date no safe storage answer has been found. Spent fuel is accumulating in temporary facilities all over the world! In the absence of an answer, the Nuclear Waste Management Organization proposes a 300-year strategy to implement its plan to store nuclear waste. The hubris of planning for 300 years is mind boggling. The arrogance of assuming that dangerous waste could be protected for hundreds of thousands of years is equally mind-boggling.. To continue to expand nuclear power generation when we don’t know how to manage dangerous waste is the antithesis of the precautionary principle, of sustainable development, of common sense. What are we proposing to leave for future generations?
Environment Haliburton! is concerned that mining activities in the province take place under a Mining Act that has not been substantially changed in well over 100 years. In particular, the separation of mineral and surface rights is of concern, as is the open access/free entry system of staking. Such a strategy invites conflict, exploration booms, and the squandering of the people’s resources. Ontario and Haliburton County are nothing like they were a century ago. The Mining Act should reflect current conditions.
Environment Haliburton! recommends that the Mining Act be rewritten:
• to respect Aboriginal and Treaty rights not only as codified by the Supreme Court but also as recognized through our systems of natural justice and fair play
• to ensure that the interests of the local community are addressed
• to ensure that a local community can effectively say no to mining in its backyard
• to ensure that there is environmental protection throughout the mining
Environment Haliburton! recommends that uranium stay in the ground, that is, that Ontario institute a moratorium on uranium mining including exploration for uranium. We understand that there is a legitimate use of uranium for medical purposes and are certain that sufficient resources can be stockpiled until more benign therapies are developed.
Environment Haliburton! recommends that Ontario refocus its energy planning to invest in conservation and alternate energy and begin to phase out existing nuclear plants.
Environment Haliburton! recommends that Ontario act upon the proposal by the Ardoch and Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nations that a three-person joint panel be convened to investigate exploration and mining issues and to negotiate an interim measures agreement.
Finally as a settler and on behalf of Environment Haliburton! which is an organization of settlers, I apologise to Robert Lovelace, Chief Donny Morris, Deputy Chief Jack McKay, Spokesman Sam McKay, Councillors Cecilia Begg and Darryl Sainnawap and Bruce Sakakeep because our courts have put them in jail for taking action to protect their lands and our futures. Would that the government of Dalton McGuinty showed such care, concern and love for our lands and our future. Instead, the government of Dalton McGuinty brings shame upon all residents of Ontario and Canada.